Meander belts are characterized by a complex amalgam of point bars and associated depositional elements, such as oxbow-lake fills. Point-bar deposits are composite elements often characterized by complex scroll-bar patterns formed in response to processes of expansion, rotation, and translation of a meander bend. Intra-point-bar erosion is commonly observed in modern river systems, yet its product is rarely described from the ancient record. Late Cretaceous meander-belt deposits, consisting of a transition from a point-bar to counter-point-bar deposit, as well as an associated abandoned channel fill, crop out in south central Alberta, Canada. The strata are characterized by widespread evidence for intra-point bar deposit erosion and punctuated rotation.
In the stratigraphic record, intra-point bar deposit erosion and punctuated rotation is expressed by steeply dipping discordant surfaces (up to 20°), which truncate previously deposited lateral-accretion packages. Across these erosion surfaces the direction of bar migration often rotates significantly, up to 50°. Subsequent accretion surfaces onlap intra-point-bar-deposit erosion surfaces.
The analysis reveals that point-bar surfaces are formed through a complex interplay of erosional and depositional processes along their length, resulting in stratigraphic surfaces that may be highly composite. This study departs from more simplistic process models of point bars that consider deposits to be the product of continuous lateral accretion, and as such has important implications for paleoenvironmental reconstructions and subsurface reservoir characterization.